Electionland National Reporting Project Comes to CUNY J-School on Nov. 8

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

CUNY J-School Teams Up with News Organizations
To Cover Election Problems and Help America Vote

The Electionland National Reporting Project Will Empower Newsrooms with Innovative Technology to Cover Voting in Real Time


The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism will join a coalition of news organizations on November 8 for
Electionland, a national reporting initiative that will cover voting problems during the 2016 election.

The hub of the project will be a pop-up newsroom using the broadcast center and other facilities of the CUNY J-School on West 40th Street in New York.The media partners, which include ProPublica, Google News Lab, WNYC, the USA TODAY NETWORK, Univision News, and First Draft, will work together to track the voter experience across America in real time. The network’s coordinated use of innovative technology is designed to identify election administration issues as they are happening and empower local reporters to take action.

“Electionland is a great opportunity for our students and faculty to work alongside this vaunted group of journalists on one of the most important issues of our time,” said Sarah Bartlett, Dean of the CUNY Journalism School. “We’re delighted that our cutting-edge facility can be put to such good use in support of greater civic engagement.”

Electionland will look for problems typically experienced in voting, such as long lines, malfunctioning machines, harassing election challengers, upticks in provisional ballot use, names dropped from voter rolls, and unrequired requests for photo identification, as well as any evidence of in-person voter fraud.

American voters routinely encounter problems that make it harder to vote – Arizona experienced unmanageably long lines during this year’s presidential primary, and 120,000 names were purged from voter rolls in New York. Still, journalists have struggled to cover these issues on Election Day. Too often problems are caught after polls close, when citizens’ right to vote has been compromised and potential votes have been lost.

The news organizations signed up for the initiative include a consortium of more than two dozen public radio member stations convened by WNYC, such as WLRN in Miami, KERA in Dallas, WHYY in Philadelphia and KPCC in Los Angeles; Univision television stations; and newspapers in key jurisdictions, including the USA TODAY NETWORK’s Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, Detroit Free Press, Indianapolis Star, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tallahassee Democrat, and the Tennessean.

Throughout the early voting period and on Election Day, the Electionland coalition will receive real-time data on voting problems from multiple sources, including social media, Google search trends, Facebook’s Signal platform, and Election Protection, a project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  

First Draft, a group of social newsgathering and verification specialists, will coordinate and train a selected network of student journalists to monitor and flag reports that emerge on social media. The students, from the University of Alabama, Arizona State University, Columbia University, CUNY, University of Florida, University of Georgia, Louisiana State University, University of Memphis, University of Missouri, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ohio University, University of Oregon, and Texas State University will work with ProPublica editors and reporters to send leads to local media organizations for follow-up.

From the pop-up newsroom at the CUNY J-School, ProPublica will publish national stories on the state of voting, a live blog to be launched during early voting, and updates on social media throughout Election Day.

“Most newsrooms in America are asking an important but premature question while polls are open: Who’s winning?” said Scott Klein, ProPublica deputy managing editor and the project’s leader. “Electionland is an experiment that asks whether we can help empower newsrooms to cover other vitally important questions that day: How is the election itself going? Who’s voting and who’s being turned away?”

“On Election Day, newsrooms often don’t get solid information about voting problems until late in the day — if at all,” said John Keefe, senior editor for data news at WNYC and one of the project’s organizers. “We hope to get strong leads into reporters’ hands earlier so they have a chance to pursue stories as they are unfolding.”

Local reporters can still sign up to participate in Electionland and receive real-time alerts about potential voting trouble spots within their coverage area. In advance of the voting period, participating newsrooms will also have access to reporting recipes, tip sheets, and community calls on the changing voting landscape.

ProPublica also launched Election DataBot, a new tool that monitors the campaign activity of candidates for federal office throughout the election season, aggregating information such as their filings made to the Federal Election Commission, congressional votes (for incumbents), polling data, and their Google Search popularity. Reporters can subscribe to real-time notifications about the races and candidates they cover.

For more information on Electionland and the pop-up newsroom, contact Andrew Mendelson, associate dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, at andrew.mendelson@journalism.cuny.edu, 646-758-7838; or Cynthia Gordy, cynthia.gordy@propublica.org, 917-703-1242.

To learn more about Electionland and to sign up as a reporter, visit propublica.org/electionland.

To learn more about the Election DataBot and sign up, visit propublica.org/electionbot.

Support for Electionland comes from Google News Lab and Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and craigconnects.